arshas Ki Savo
The parsha starts off talking about the mitzvah of bikkurim, bringing the first fruits of one’s land up to the Beis HaMikdash. There are many questions to ponder here. Firstly, why is this mitzvah given first priority for immediate fulfillment upon the Jews entering Eretz Yisrael? Secondly, why is it juxtaposed with the end of last week’s parsha which concluded with the mitzvah to remember and wipe out Amalek. Thirdly, how do we understand the following seemingly enigmatic Midrash about bikkurim:
“Moshe saw prophetically that the beis hamikdash would be destroyed which would thus end the bringing of bikkurim and so he established three prayers each day to take its place. This is because tefillah is more dear to Hashem more than good actions and all sacrificial offerings (Midrash Tanchumah, quoted partially by Yalkut Reuveni).”
Who Established Prayer?
The Gemara (Berachos 26b) states that tefillah was established by the Avos according to one opinion and by the rabbis corresponding to the tamid offerings. How do we reconcile these teachings?
Maharal asks, before the Avos did Adam and Noach and others not pray? The Maharsha answers that people certainly prayed, but the Avos each established one prayer (Shachris, Mincha and Maariv) corresponding to their trait and they were very strict about adhering to that prayer.
Yerushalmi states that the three prayers correspond to the three times that the day changes: from morning to afternoon to evening. Each time we give thanks to Hashem. Yerushalmi (Berachos 7:3) also says that Moshe established the text of the tefillah which includes the words: ‘haKel HaGadol HaKibur v’haNorah.’ See Yuma 69b as well where it says explicitly that Moshe established these words in Shemoneh Esrei. Hence, tefillah is multi layered and had many aspects to its development.
The Sefer HaChinuch explains that the deeper meaning of bikkurim is that we take the first fruits that we produce and instead of taking them home and enjoying them ourselves, which would be a normal and natural human desire, we dedicate them to Hashem to acknowledge that He is the true provider. We bring them to the beis hamikdash and sanctify them for His Name.
Sfas Emes (1847 – 1905) adds in the name of his father, that this is why Moshe established prayer three times a day to make up for bikkurim being stopped. The three prayers, as explained above, come at the beginning of each new part of the day and thus we have a choice. Either we can take those times for ourselves, or instead, we can focus them onto Hashem and sanctify each time to be dedicated to Hashem and His service. When we turn towards Hashem, this sets the tone for how we will use our time and day. Thus, prayer is the greatest reminder of where we put our focus. He explains that this is why bikkurim is right next to Amelek. They are called (Bamidbar 24:20) ‘reishis goyim, the first nation’ to attack the Jews when they left Egypt. Just as they used the first opportunity to try to destroy us spiritually and physically, we combat this by dedicating our first fruits and our first moments of morning, afternoon and evening to focus on Hashem and His service.